**One month earlier.....**
Cid cursed the driving rain that slashed through the night. He moved with short, quick strides as he made his way through Vectors trash-strewn streets, shivering as the chill downpour soaked him to the bone.
Walking around alone in Vector in the daytime was dangerous enough; walking around alone at this time of night was virtually begging for a knife in the back. The magitek scientist kept looking around him uncomfortably. The citys streetlights were like oases in a desert of inky blackness, stretched few and far between. The darkness between held a variety of imagined horrors for Cid; thieves, murderers, maybe even a daring monster or two. If only the Imperial Guard monitored the interior of the city as much as they did the gates, he wouldnt have to feel this way-
Now, he was probably going to catch his death of cold. He was wet, he was tired, and he sure didnt feel like visiting the Imperial palace right now....
But when Kefka called, you didnt dare refuse.
After what seemed an eternity, Cid at last saw the Imperial Palace looming up ahead. At least the guards at the entrance seemed to recognize him, waterlogged though he was. He was quickly ushered in, and he hurried towards Kefkas private chambers, leaving a trail of water behind him on the palaces plush red carpeting.
He reached the oak door to Kefkas room and slowly opened it.
Good evening, Ciddie! Kefka bellowed, causing the meek scientist to jump back, startled. Cid tried his best to restrain a shudder as the freakish man tossed an arm around his shoulders. He only partially succeeded, but Kefka didnt seem to notice.
Just the man I wanted to talk to, Kefka said grandly. He gestured to a chair. Sit down.
As Cid plunked down into the chair, the other perched himself on the corner of a bureau. I suppose youre wondering why I called you here?
Well actually, um, yes, Cid replied, rattled by the very presence of the harlequin-like creature before him.
I have a small.....request... Kefka said, steepling his fingers under his chin. Another dosage of that magitek infusion serum. Youve got it. I want it.
Kefka.... Cid began, well aware he was walking a razor edge. Another dosage would certainly kill you. And even if there was some way you could survive, Gestahl would never allow-
Who says our dear, dear emperor even has to know? Kefka feigned sincerity. Your concern is appreciated, Cid, but I dont intend for the serum to be used on me. No, no! Its all for my little subject. My sweet little #039.
The girl? But shes already half-esper. Magic is a part of her very nature, she doesnt function the same way as us. An infusion could wreak havoc on her body systems, maybe even kill her....
Kefka shrugged. Thats a chance Im willing to take.
Cid was astonished. Every time he thought Kefka couldnt sink any lower, he was inevitably proven wrong.
But why? What is the point of subjecting her to that?
The other waved a hand in dismissal. Call it the pursuit of science, Ciddie, Im sure it will make sense to you then. But I must say your talk alarms me. You speak as if she were a human being.
I....I... Cid stammered.
Two words, Ciddie, Kefka said slowly and deliberately, as if he were talking to a child, Magitek Infusion.
I refuse! the meek researcher was stunned by the force of his words. I wont do anything without the emperors permission!
Oh, but you WILL! Kefka shrieked, then started laughing maniacally as if he had cracked a side-splitting joke. Then, his voice turned icy. You will, Cid, because if you dont Ill cause you pain like you cant even imagine.
I-Im n-not afraid of you, Cids voice was almost a whimper.
Hmmm.... Kefka mused aloud. Celes certainly is very pretty, isnt she? It would really be a shame if something were to happen to her.....
No! Suddenly something seemed to snap within Cid. He threw himself to the floor and scrabbled wildly at Kefkas tunic. You wouldnt, you couldnt! A light kick sent him sprawling.
Wrong on both counts, Ciddie! Ill send someone after her, have her killed in her sleep. Hmmm.... he trailed off for a moment. Perhaps Ill order them to rape her first, just to make it look like an act of random sexual deviancy. Now that I mention it, I might enjoy doing the job mysel-
Ill do it, Cid hissed, simultaneously disgusted by the evil of the man before him and ashamed of his own inability to stand up to him.
Good choice! Kefka was all smiles again. Do get up off the floor, Ciddie, your wet clothes are making the carpet damp.
I...I have to go... Cid wheezed, sick with fear and loathing. He stumbled to the door of Kefkas chambers.
Terribly sorry you have to step out, Kefka said. Oh, and one more thing....
Yes? the terrified scientist asked, filled with dread.
I want a good strong batch of serum, just like what you used to infuse me. Theres no point in using that watered-down stuff you gave Celes.
Cid just nodded grimly, a sense of foreboding stealing over him.
A good strong batch....
The first infusion had been too strong, had ultimately driven Kefka insane. And now, the freak wanted him to do it again.
Would there soon be two Kefkas roaming the world?
**One week earlier**
Cid wished they wouldnt scream.
It made concentrating on the extraction process much more difficult, for one thing. For another, the shrieks of pain grated on his ears and tore at his soul, accusatory in their volume and frequency.
Youre a monster, they seemed to declare. You can call Kefka twisted if you want, Cid, but how much better are you? You see how much pain it causes us when you extract the very fabric of our existence, so why dont you stop?
Why didnt he?
He was a coward, pure and simple, too weak to refuse Kefka and the Emperors cruel orders. No matter what the cost to his conscience or soul, the commands were inevitably followed, replete with consuming guilt and sorrow.
As he adjusted the control dials on his main console, the nearest espers frantic cries intensified. Cid turned to look at her, pity filling his heart.
She was one of about two dozen espers held in his Magitek Research Facilitys confinement tubes. Her form gave the overall impression of a nude woman, but was strangely smoothed, with no external features save a pair of avian-like eyes. She thrashed violently in the esper tube, repeatedly bashing her indigo fists against the clear sides.
Her struggles were in vain; though the tube walls looked like ordinarily glass, they were nearly unbreakable. Trapped within them and surrounded by the gyal fluid, she was completely helpless.
The fluid was Cids very own creation, perfected just before the espers had been taken from their world. It had the singularly unique effect of dampening any magic powers, even those of the espers. Since such elemental creatures didnt need air, they could stay submerged in the liquid all the time.
The scientist was also grateful that the gyal helped muffle the outcries of the creatures within. As awful and as heartbreaking as they were now, they would have been unbearable at their full volume.
Cid took a minute to monitor the readings on the console beside him. The extraction was almost complete, requiring only a little more essence until he would have enough stored to mix up another Magitek infusion.
The trapped esper glared at him as the liquid bubbled and frothed. Stunning blue motes of color like electric fireflies emerged from her body, swirling briefly in the tank before being sucked into the collection tube at the bottom.
From the vats bottom, a long, thin tube extended for some distance before forming a junction with an even larger holding chamber. As Cid gazed into the clear walls of the collection chamber, he could see the tiny particles coalescing, joining with the dazzling multicolored orb of energy that hummed in the center.
Esper essence. The stuff dreams- and magic- were made of.
With a loud buzz, the extraction machines ground to a halt. Cid didnt need to examine the monitors to know the reason; all it took was a single glance at the esper.
The fight had gone out of her. She slumped against the glass walls, her struggles over, her power exhausted.
Designate Shivas essence depleted, the computer reported in a soft, feminine voice. Further extraction impossible. Disposal recommended.
The scientist ignored the report, not wishing to doom the creature to the garbage bins, an even more pitiful existence than the one she currently suffered. Instead, he walked up to the collection chamber. He swiftly began to type out commands on its small keypad.
Five minutes later, he had what he needed, a small vial filled with glowing, multicolored liquid that had been siphoned from numerous espers.
Kefkas request had been honored.
Goddesses forgive me for what I am about to do.....Cid thought, turning to leave the Research Facility. As he walked through the rows of tubes, his eyes strayed up to the fanciful creatures within.
He couldnt help but recall how strong they had once been, how they had once seemed like living legends out of fairytales. Now, they were nothing more than shadows of their former selves, their forms bent and haggard in their prisons. They all seemed utterly drained.
The only feature that showed any form of life was their eyes. The eyes that always followed his motions, always haunted his dreams.
Why do they have to look at me? Why do they have to condemn me?
He hurried from the lab.
Marvelous, Ciddie! Kefka enthused, pacing the floor of his chamber. Simply Mah-vel-ous!
He twirled the syringe in the air, gazing raptly into its shifting, multicolored depths. His ruby red lips curled up in a smile as he pressed its point lightly against one of his fingertips.
Dont you think so, pet? he asked, addressing his question to the green-haired girl that stood beside him.
The girl nodded blankly, her eyes staring fixedly ahead at nothing at all. Cid shivered involuntarily. Being around her always gave him the creeps. That stiff, robotlike posture, those dull eyes, that motionless face.....it was hard to believe that the small metal slave crown she wore was responsible for all.
He could not help but feel sorry for the girl. Her day to day life was even more miserable that that of the imprisoned espers. Just being around Kefka for a few minutes was enough to chill him; he couldnt imagine what continuos exposure would do to someone. Perhaps it was best that the crown dulled her thoughts and blunted her emotions.
Well, enough dilly-dallying, the jesterlike freak said jauntily. With a sudden sharp movement, he jabbed the syringe into her arm, depressing the plunger and emptying the magitek solution into her bloodstream.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then, she fell, convulsing wildly, screaming as she clawed at the stone floor. Cid stepped back, stunned. These loud outcries were to only sounds he had ever heard her utter.
Shes dying! the researcher yelled.
Get out, Kefka said. Get out now.
After several minutes, her thrashing slowed, and her screams ceased. She began to breathe more evenly as she returned to normal. Kefka knelt beside her, placing a hand on her forehead.
A yellow glow flared up around the two of them as he cast the scan spell. As the light trickled through his mind, the state of her body and spirit was laid bare to him. Turmoil was raging through her soul, pain wracked every inch of her body. But she would live.
And afterwards, she would be stronger than ever.
She would be his tool, his means of slowly seizing power within the Empire. As long as the slave crown remained on her head, she would be his willing puppet, to strike at any target he wished.
He began to laugh loudly, clenching his fists in victory as the horrid sound rang throughout the chamber.
Today the girl, tomorrow the world!
Oh Kefka, he chided himself, Cant you think up something better than THAT old cliché?
I am Terra
I am Esper
**One Hour Earlier**
Are we ready for the next test? Kefka asked as he strode into the control booth.
Whenever you are, the young tech called Grang answered, turning towards the mage.
Kefka strode over to the booths glass wall and looked out over the testing chamber. Below, test subject #039 waited impassively, arms at her sides. This would be her first combat testing since the fresh infusion, and Kefka was eager to observe the results.
He looked back at the two techs that manned the booths control console.
Begin the test.
Whatever you say. Grang and his partner Chess began to throw switches, press buttons, and adjust dials.
Apertures opened in the walls of the testing chamber. Slowly, dozens of man-shaped drone bots emerged, making their ponderous way towards the girl. She continued to stand there, staring blankly ahead, making no move to ward off the approaching robots.
Kefka furrowed his brow. This isnt right, he sulked. This isnt right at all. Shes just standing there. But perhaps she just needs a little prompt... apply the Motivator.
Yes sir, Chess said grimly, twisting a small red dial.
The girl lurched as the increased surge of power ran through her body, but otherwise she remained motionless.
Hit her again, Kefka ordered. More power.
Again, her lithe form was wracked by a blast of raw energy, the charge cruelly delivered by the slave crown. Kefka thought for a moment that he saw sparks fly from her mouth. Still, she did not respond to the threat of the drones.
Maximum intensity, the clownish man snapped.
But Kefka, Chess began. That kind of charge could cause permanent brain damage, maybe even-
Shut up! Grang hissed. Do you feel like dying today? I sure as hell dont. Now do what he says.
Reluctantly, Chess turned the knob as far to the right as it would go. Below, the girl grimaced as another jolt stabbed through her delicate form. Sparks like fireflies were flying from the slave crown now, throwing sporadic flashes of light across the testing chamber.
The test subject raised her arms, took a few short, tentative steps.
Its working! Kefka screeched. Even the best chocobo needs a good prodding now and then! Uweheheheheeheheheheheehee!
She was floating in a haze, her mind filled with contradictions and uncertainties. She was mired in a swamp of utter confusion, her thoughts muddled and twisted beyond belief.
Somehow, she could still grasp faint memories out of the mist. Her name. Her name was Terra. That she knew.
She was also aware of the esper blood that sang in her veins, the power that she possessed. There was a reason she was this way, she recalled, if only she could remember...
Yet these were the only things she was left with. As the blast from the slave crown tore into her mind, it broke apart her fragile memories, stripping them away, leaving her with nothing but her name, her hate, and the most rudimentary of her esper instincts.
The instinct to kill. The instinct to destroy.
The fresh infusion of magitek only complicated the process, making things even harder to grasp and understand. As she dimly felt the pain wracking her body, she could sense the effects of the infusion in her blood, the raw power that was about to be unleashed.
Even as the thought faded away, she lashed out, sending her fire into the approaching drones, burning them and knocking them back. Within seconds, they were all smoking hunks of molten metal.
The slave crown tumbled from her head, its circuits fried. It clashed loudly against the floor as she turned to look up at the glass-walled control booth.
Oh, some of her memories might be gone, but she remembered The Controller. She was painfully aware of the mental and physical abuse he had caused her. And the newfound energy that flowed within her made her powerful enough to return it in kind.
Kefka! Grang shrieked in panic The slave crown has gone offline. Its not respond-
His words were cut off by the explosion that tore through the room.
Kefka dove to the floor as the control booths glass wall shattered, spraying hundreds of shards like deadly missiles. He felt intense pain across his back as flames licked at first his clothes and then his exposed flesh. He could see nothing but a blinding orange light, hear nothing but the whoosh of the flame and the screams of the two techs.
When the fire finally died down, Kefka raised his head and gazed around him. The booth was in shambles, the wall now nothing but a ragged hole. The two techs had died rather messily; broiled by the savage heat and impaled by slivers of flying glass.
Kefka stumbled to his feet, wheezing. For the first time he could remember since that first hellish night after his infusion, he felt real fear. The girl was out of control, his plan had backfired.
But that didnt matter now. All that mattered was getting out of this hell hole alive.
It was waiting when he turned towards the door.
But though the figure was unmistakably his test subject, she sure as hell had never looked like this before. Her entire frame thrummed with pale light; pinkish tendrils of pure energy wreathed her body, twisting like living things. The pair of inky black eyes that gazed malevolently at him were immeasurably deep.
Gradually, Kefka became aware that he had fallen to the ground again and was scooting backwards in a rather undignified manner. He let out a little squeal as his back touched the booths far wall.
Get a hold of yourself! His mind shrilled. Youre acting like a child!
Stay away, he hissed in intermingled pain and fear.
Kefka..... the creature entoned with an oddly low voice.
He narrowed his eyes. In time, she could have been a valuable tool, but now she had far outlived her usefulness. It was really a shame to destroy such a charming specimen, but it was the only way to ensure his safety. Kefka clenched his fists, concentrating on the reserves of magic stored within his body.
He jumped to a standing position, his entire body glowing slightly as he primed his attack. With a yell, Kefka drew his arms in toward his body and suddenly threw them out. Hundreds of sharp ice shards flew from his fingertips, striking the thing that had once been the girl.
The creature was thrown against the far wall by the force of the attack. It fell to the floor, stunned. Kefka pressed the advantage, pouring on more power as he advanced. The specimen began to shriek as a sheet of ice climbed up its form, dampening its power and imprisoning its limbs.
Seconds later, the mage stopped to admire his handiwork. The esper was trapped within a chunk of ice, held as motionless as a fly in amber. It was quite harmless now. Kefka lowered his head a bit, breathing heavily. Of course he had been victorious, as he had always been, but this battle had taken a lot out of him. His reserves were dangerously low. Soon, he would take time to rest and recuperate, but for now it was simply enough to gloat.
He felt the slight shimmer in the air before it happened, but had no time to act. One moment, he was standing beside the snared esper, the next, he was flying through the air.
Kefka hit the wall with a painful crunch, sliding to the floor as blackened chunks of ice rained down around him. He realized with a start that he could no longer feel his legs. An icy coldness that was worse than any pain could ever be stole over his lower half.
Now the creature was before him, lifting him to his feet with a single hand. Its dark eyes burned into his. Feebly, he tried to strike out at it, but his wrist was easily ensnared by the creatures other hand. Kefka felt its grip tighten, heard the dry crackle of snapping bones.
Finally, his mind accepted what his body had been telling him for some time; he was going to die. There was no way to avoid it, no way to deviously trick his opponents as he had so often before. Unless......
Stop, he begged. Mercy!
Mercy? the esper said, in a low, even voice. You dare ask for mercy? Did you grant me mercy when you performed your experiments on me? Did you grant me mercy when my mind cried helplessly beneath the slave crown as you ravaged my body and my soul?
Kefkas swiftly fading senses of magical perception told him that she was gathering her energy again. Finally facing death, he lost what wisps of sanity he had left. Thrashing wildly, he began to laugh and scream at the same time.
Mercy! Mercy! Uweheheheheheeheheheheheheehe hahahhahaa No! ahahaha-
The esper called Terra cut through his babble with a single word.
The fire surged into his body, eating away as he screamed in pain. In only moments, the cleansing flame had devoured his flesh and sinew, reducing him to nothing more than a pile of charred bones.
Terra turned to leave, her newly awakened instincts taking control. The magic that sang through her veins flared up as she probed her surroundings. The old one, the emperor, was close by. Once he was eliminated....
Smiling wickedly, she moved to secure her place in this lush World of Balance.